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Friday April 25, 2008

By Phil Smith                                             Click on Photos for Full Size                                

 
Forty-five years ago in 1963 the Utica-Rome Speedway opened for the season. Tom Kotary won the 25-lap NASCAR Sportsman feature. Robbie Kotary finished second with Jim Luke, third. Rene Charland and Bill Wimble rounded out the top five.

Forty years ago in 1968 there was no Spring Sizzler as most of the extra distance-added purse events were run in the fall after Labor Day. Ray Hendrick won a 100 lap modified event at Martinsville on Saturday afternoon. Norwood Arena in Massachusetts opened for the season with Eddie Flemke taking the win. At Fonda, Eddie Pieniezak took the win on the dirt over Jerry Cook and Ron Narducci. Flemke made it two for two on the weekend as he won the Sunday afternoon event at Thompson. Also running on Sunday was Fulton where Don Diffendorf took the win.

Thirty-five years ago in 1973, Ed Flemke got even for a disappointment suffered 12 months prior when he turned the tables on Fred DeSarro to win Sizzler II. DeSarro, who had won the original Sizzler when Flemke's water pump broke, finished second and was followed by Maynard Troyer, Paul Radford, Guy Chartrand and Richie Evans.

Thirty years ago in 1978, Maynard Troyer staged a knock down, drag out battle with Geoff Bodine to win the Sizzler. Evans finished third with Bugsy Stevens and DeSarro rounding out the top five. John Rosati won the non-qualifiers event.

Twenty-five years ago in the Spring Sizzler of 1983 Greg Sacks was unbeatable as he scored a hard fought win over Reggie Ruggerio, Brett Bodine and Brian Ross. Jim Spencer won the non-qualifiers race and finished seventh in the 80 lap Spring Sizzler at Stafford
.
Twenty years ago in 1988, The Modified series was not included in the Sizzler. The SK's took center stage with Ted Christopher taking the 80-lap win over Bob Potter, Bo Gunning and Tom Tagg. Phil Rondeau was the late model winner. The racing was good but the crowd that followed the Modifieds stayed away in droves.

Fifteen years ago, in1993, the Sizzler had been expanded from 80 to 200 laps for the NASCAR Modified Series. Reggie Ruggiero took the lead on lap 153 and held off Doug Hevron and Tom Baldwin for the win. Mike Christopher was the SK modified winner over his brother Ted. In Winston Cup action at Talledega, Ernie Irvan took the win over Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt. Rusty Wallace had been ahead of Earnhardt but unfortunately got tapped by the man in black and went end over end in a wreck.

Ten years ago in 1998, the Featherlite Modified Tour was in Martinsville for a 200-lap event that served as a preliminary to their spring Winston Cup event. Mike Ewanitsko, in the Art Barry No.21, came from a 24th starting spot to take a hard fought win over Mike Stefanik and Tim Connolly. Stefanik led the event from the start to lap 167. Ewanitsko and Stefanik ran wheel to wheel for many laps. Reggie Ruggiero and Jamie Tomaino rounded out the top five. The Waterford Speedbowl had a 200-lap event scheduled for Sunday until rain intervened. Rain also washed out the Winston Cup event at Martinsville. NASCAR has a “Next clear day policy” which dictated that the event would run on Monday. Bobby Hamilton was the pole sitter and led 378 of the 500 laps to take the win. John Andretti was running second with six laps to go when he ran out of gas. Ted Musgrave, running third at the time, finished second.

Five years ago in 2003 Ted Christopher and Ed Flemke JR got real personal as the two made repeated contact for most of the last 50 laps of the 200 lap Spring Sizzler at Stafford. With four laps to go it got ugly and the end result saw Flemke planted in the wall on the backstretch. Christopher continued on to take the win. Todd Szegedy ended up second with Tony Hirschman, third. Chuck Hossfeld and Ken Woolley rounded out the top five. Christopher also won the twin SK-Modified events that were run in conjunction with the Sizzler. The entire program was run on Sunday after rain-washed out Saturday qualifying. There were 40 Modifieds on hand. The Busch North Series showed with 27 cars for their series opener at Lee Raceway. Andy Santerre led pole to pole to win the 150-lap event. Kelly Moore finished second. In Winston Cup action at Fontana, California, Kurt Busch passed Jamie McMurray with 12 laps to go and went on to take the win. Pole sitter Steve Park wrecked on the first lap. Matt Kenseth won the companion Busch Series event. Racing at Wall Township, Riverhead and at the Waterford Speedbowl was rained out.

Last year, 2007, The 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series headed to the Stafford Motor Speedway on April 29. The track opened on Friday despite heavy rains that cancelled weekly racing division practice sessions. Forty-two Modifieds were on hand for practice and qualifying on Saturday. Second generation driver Matt Hirschman took the Busch Pole winner as he toured the half mile oval at 45/100th of a second faster then his father, Tony, in qualifying. Tony Hirschman, a five-time series champion, averaged 99.701 mph in his qualifying run. Reggie Ruggiero of Rocky Hill, Conn. was third fastest with a speed of 99.673 mph. Thompson Ice Breaker winner, James Civali, was fourth fastest with a speed of 99.448 mph. Ted Christopher rounded out the Top-5 in qualifying with a speed of 99.179 mph. The Top-8 qualifiers drew for starting position. Tony Hirschman drew the pole and was joined by Ruggiero on the front row. Civali and Matt Hirschman made up row number two.

Don Lia and car owner Bob Garbarino didn’t repeat their mistake made at Thompson as they pitted for tires on lap 75 of the 200 lap Spring Sizzler. Their pit stop paid off in dividends as they won the event. Lia and Todd Szegedy swapped the lead three times over the final 29 laps. Lia took the lead for good on lap 97. Szegedy settled for second with Jerry Marquis bringing the Brady Bunch No.00 home in third spot. Mike Stefanik, who had a problem and never got to time trial, got in the event using a provisional starting spot, finished fourth. Zach Sylvester in the Curt Chase No.77 finished fifth. Fourteen caution periods for 76 laps kept Lia’s average speed at 55.147 mph. Frank Ruocco, a part time Modified Tour competitor caused the two biggest wrecks and was responsible for at least six cars being knocked out of the Sizzler. The first “Big One” came on lap 20 when Ruocco got airborne and landed on the Roger Hill No.79 driven by Chuck Hossfeld. The Hill car suffered extensive body damage and looked ready for the scrap heap. Extensive pit repairs and body work with a sledge hammer plus miles of 100 mile per hour tape kept Hossfeld on the track. Plus the fact he received two separate Lucky Dog awards and was able to finish on the lead lap in 13th spot. Carl Pasteryak and Bobby Santos III weren’t as lucky as their mounts had to be parked because of extensive damage. The second Ruocco “Big One” came on lap 117 when his radiator broke and the resulting mess collected Rick Fuller, Rob Summers and Matt Hirschman. Sixth through tenth were Tony Hirschman, James Civali, Matt Hirschman, Jimmy Blewett and Jamie Tomaino.

Among the highlights of the weekend was the release of Steady Eddie: Memories of Ed Flemke, Modified Racing's Fastest Professor. Coastal 181 and Bones Bourcier did an excellent job on this one. Flemke became a Modified Legend in his own time. A favorite Flemke story took place at the Waterford Speedbowl in the early 1950’s. Flemke was in the Army and stationed at Fort Dix in New Jersey. Waterford had a big race and Flemke wanted the weekend off and his superiors refused his request. Some how he was able to go AWOL and make the race. Some of his friends had his car ready when he arrived and he jumped in and went out and won the race. Military Police were waiting at the pit gate. They got a big surprise when Flemke parked his race car between turns one and two and jumped the fence and ran off into the nearby woods. To make a long story short, Flemke made it back to Fort Dix and was in his bunk fast asleep when the MPs returned from Connecticut.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action, Chris Matthews repeated his Spring Sizzler SK Light Modified feature win of one year ago, and Rick Lanagan drove to victory in his Limited Late Model feature debut. Zach Sylvester was the winner of the Coors Light 21 Means 21 SK Modified® feature event, and Ryan Posocco was the winner of the Late Model 16 feature event.

Lloyd Agor was awarded the SK Modified win after apparent winner Woody Pitkat was disqualified after officials discovered his car had an illegal rear spoiler. Jeff Baral finished second and was followed by Jeff Malave, Eric Berndt and Ted Christopher. The Late Model Feature went green to checker with first-time winner Corey Hutchings taking the win. Woody Pitkat finished second.

At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night Shawn Monahan passed Doug Coby with 12-laps to go to win Saturday evening’s 35-lap SK Modified feature at the shoreline oval. Early leader Dennis Charette spun after contact with Kenny Horton. Jeff Paul, Rob Janovic, and Tyler Chadwick rounded-out the top-5. Last weeks winner Diego Monahan finished sixth.

Other feature winners were Bruce Thomas Jr. (Late Models), Dwayne Dorr (Sportsman), Joseph Godbout III (Mini Stocks), Ginny Quinones (USAC Ford Focus Midget Series).

At the Wall Township Speedway Kevin Flockhart won the 40 lap Modified feature. Tom Farrell, Michael Bohn, John Blewett III, Steve Reed and Shaun Craig rounded out the top five.

In NASCAR Busch East competition Sixteen-year-old Joey Logano swept to the win at the Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina, his second NASCAR Grand National victory in less than ten days. Logano, of Middletown, Conn., held off Sean Caisse to win the NASCAR Busch East Series Greased Lightning 150. The victory comes on the heals of his NASCAR West Series season opening win at Phoenix International Raceway April 19. The West Series and Busch East Series wins were Logano’s first and second career NASCAR starts, respectively. Logano, who set the track record at 87.481 mph qualifying, took the lead from defending race winner Caisse on lap 73. Bryon Chew of Mattituck, N.Y. was third followed by Peyton Sellers of Danville, Va., and Rogelio Lopez of Mexico City, Mexico.

In Nextel Cup action at the Talledega Speedway Jeff Gordon crossed the finish line for win No. 77, breaking a tie with the late Dale Earnhardt on NASCAR's career victory list. It was only fitting that it happened at Talladega, where Earnhardt, who would have been 56 on Sunday, won 10 times in his Cup career. But it was anticlimactic and confusing, ending under caution to leave Gordon unsure if he'd actually won and taken over sixth place on the wins list.

Gordon, who started on the pole, ran up front at times during the race but was 14th on a restart with 10 laps to go. But he stormed to the front and with three laps to go passed Jamie McMurray for the lead a split-second before a caution came out. It set up a the green-white-checkered flag finish, with Gordon out front on the restart. But before the field reached full speed, a wreck far behind the leaders brought out the caution and effectively ended the race.Tony Stewart, embroiled in controversy all week for likening NASCAR to pro wrestling, was knocked into the wall far ahead of the first accident. He bounced off the outside wall, slid down the track and into the inside wall, then stood fuming on the apron as he waited for the field to pass. He made an angry gesture at Jamie McMurray and David Gilliland as they passed under caution. Jimmie Johnson, Gordon's teammate, finished second as Hendrick Motorsports cars continued their season-long domination. Hendrick drivers have won six of the first nine races.Kurt Busch was third, Gilliland fourth and McMurray finished fifth. Kevin Harvick was sixth, followed by Earnhardt, David Stremme, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the Kentucky Speedway revised their lawsuit against NASCAR and the International Speedway Corporation. Kentucky Speedway was no longer demanding a Nextel Cup race in its federal lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. In an amended complaint filed Friday, April 20, the speedway said it wanted NASCAR to develop "objective factors" for the awarding of Nextel Cup races, the France family to give up control of either ISC (a public company that operates tracks and whose majority of voting stock is owned by the Frances) or NASCAR (a private company owned by the Frances) and for ISC to sell at least eight of the 12 tracks it owns that host Nextel Cup events. The 41-page complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Covington, also revealed some of the speedway's attempts to bring NASCAR's top racing series to Gallatin County. The speedway filed suit in July 2005 alleging NASCAR and ISC violated antitrust laws by restricting which tracks host Nextel Cup races and trying to "monopolize the market for hosting premium stock car racing events." In the original complaint, the speedway asked for Nextel Cup races to be awarded through a competitive bidding process. The complaint detailed some specific attempts by the speedway to secure a spot on the Nextel schedule. According to the new complaint, the track offered New Hampshire International Speedway owner Bob Bahre $360 million to buy the facility that holds two Cup races annually. NASCAR and ISC denied the allegations contained in the original complaint.

This week here are several vintage racing photos of "The Champ" Rene Charland courtesy of vintagemodifieds.com. The 4-time NASCAR National Sportsman Champion's health has not been good and is now confined to a nursing home.  Cards of cheer can be sent to Rene at:
Rene Charland
Pine View Commons
210 South Melcher
Johnstown, NY 12095

That’s it for this week from 40 Clark St. Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various other publications
 for over 3 decades.
 

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